Robin Ventura's White Sox cannot accept an inactive offseason if they want to contend in 2013.
After a September in which they choked away an AL Central Division lead that had been held for most of the season, the Chicago White Sox must make some key moves to have any chance of keeping up with the Detroit Tigers in 2013.
They already got off to a good start this offseason by re-signing starting pitcher Jake Peavy to a two-year deal worth $29 million. Peavy went 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA in 2012, throwing four complete games and pitching better than his record indicated.
This White Sox team went 85-77 under first-year manager and former White Sox player Robin Ventura. They got nice bounce-back seasons from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Peavy while also getting a career year from catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
However, it still wasn't enough to get them the division crown that has eluded them since 2008.
There is a lot to like about this team entering 2013, but there are also a lot of question marks that need to be addressed: Will John Danks ever return to form after shoulder surgery? Does Paul Konerko have enough left in the tank to hit in the middle of the order? How can the Sox improve enough that they don't suffer another September collapse?
Here is a look at some moves this team should make in preparation for spring training in 2013.
Keppinger would make sense for a White Sox team always criticized for not playing enough small ball.
As much as White Sox fans live by the long ball, they realize they must get hitters who make contact and get on base more often.
It was nice to see Adam Dunn blast 41 homers in a White Sox uniform in 2012 after a dreadful 2011 campaign, and it was also encouraging to see midseason acquisition Kevin Youkilis spark the offense (15 HR, 46 RBI in 80 games) when he arrived in Chicago.
However, both faded in September, and this team needs more players who hit for average and reach base more frequently. In 2012, the Sox were 14th in the MLB with a .259 team batting average and 15th in on-base percentage at .318. These stats aren't horrendous, but the White Sox clearly need to improve if they want to be a playoff team next season.
The White Sox declined the $13 million option on Kevin Youkilis, making it very possible he does not return to the team in 2013.
If Youk does not come back to Chicago, they should turn to the free agent market. Brent Morel is in the organization, but he has struggled mightily in the big leagues with a .230 average in 182 career games.
A good option would be free agent Jeff Keppinger. A career journeyman, he has played for six teams in his eight-year big league career and is a career .288 hitter, sporting a career .337 OBP. In 115 games in 2012 with Tampa Bay, Keppinger hit .325 and played every infield position but shortstop.
Keppinger can fill that void at third base and can also help fill any other infield position if called upon. The White Sox need to sprinkle in more players like Keppinger to mix with their big boppers.
Placido Polanco would also make sense for the White Sox. The 37-year-old is a career .299 hitter in 15 big league seasons. While he struggled to stay healthy in 2012, playing in only 90 games, the two-time All Star and three-time Gold Glove winner has a career .344 OBP and knows what it takes to be successful.
It seems like the White Sox always need contact hitters and can never produce them from their farm system. They call up low-average, high power, low-OBP players and expect them to be something they are not. While the Sox need to make these moves to better themselves in that department, there needs to be an organizational shift in how they scout and develop talent.
The team must study other organizations that are successful and tailor their efforts towards developing players that fit the mold as all-around baseball players. It will take time and effort, but it could pay huge dividends for a team without a true identity.
John Danks only made nine starts in the 2012 season.
The White Sox have a solid rotation with the likes of Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago figuring to be a part of their rotation in 2013. They also have youngsters Nestor Molina and Simon Castro pegged as future rotation guys.
"Why get another starting pitcher?" you may ask. Injuries are a big part of the game, especially for this White Sox team.
John Danks could easily have setbacks from shoulder surgery. Jake Peavy is far from a sure thing to stay healthy for a full season. Gavin Floyd missed some time in September with an elbow strain. Chris Sale threw 192 innings last year in his first season as a starter. Quintana and Santiago have yet to prove they can do the job over the long haul.
New White Sox GM Rick Hahn should study the free agent market and get another arm.
One name that comes to mind is 29-year-old Brandon McCarthy, who was drafted in 2002 by Chicago and started his MLB career with the team in 2005. McCarthy has improved throughout his career and pitched well in 18 starts with the Oakland A's in 2012, going 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA.
Other arms that would make sense include Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Joe Blanton and Kevin Correia. None of these names would break the bank, and each would give the White Sox a viable option at the tail end of the rotation or an alternative if one of their starters goes down to an injury.
Addison Reed converted 29 saves in 2012.
With the White Sox declining the team option for eighth-inning man Brett Myers, the team will be in the market for a veteran reliever or two to balance with a very young bullpen.
In today's MLB, a dominant bullpen is necessary to win a championship, as proved by the San Francisco Giants.
Names like Todd Coffey, Matt Lindstrom, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Gonzalez and Pedro Felicano are all viable veteran options on the market that can be had for a good price. If the White Sox can acquire one or two of these arms, it would bolster the bullpen.
All of the names listed above have the experience and past success necessary to help guide the young arms. They won't necessarily have to pitch the eighth inning like Myers did, but they can provide stability to a bullpen with a lot of young arms sure to go through some more growing pains in 2013.